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Scrap Fiscal Responsibility Advisory Council — CSOs

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
A participant making some contributions. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY
A participant making some contributions. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY

Economic Governance Platform (EGP), an umbrella body comprising 15 civil society organisations (CSOs), has called for the restructuring or scrapping of the Fiscal Responsibility Advisory Council (FRAC) set up by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

According to the group, the current arrangements where the council was wholly controlled by the President made it unsustainable since its existence would be conterminous with the President’s tenure of office.

Rather, the group is advocating an overhaul of the system to make the council independent of executive control, saying that was the best way forward to ensure that the public had access to relevant information on the work of the council.

 Mr Errol Graham, Lead Economist at IMF Ghana delivering some remarks

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FRAC

The government on February 12, this year, inaugurated a seven-member FRAC to act as an advisory body to the President on fiscal discipline.

The members of the presidential FRAC are Dr Paul Acquah, Chairman; Mr Abdallah Ali-Nakyea, Prof. Eugena Amporful and Dr Nii Noi Ashong.

The rest are Prof. Augustine Fosu, Dr Robert Osei and Dr Nii Kwaku Sowa.

The core function of the council is to “Develop and recommend to the President, fiscal responsibility policies for the maintenance of prudent and sustainable levels of public debt, ensure that fiscal balance is maintained at sustainable level and the management of fiscal risks in a prudent manner to achieve efficiency, effectiveness and value for money on public expenditure.”

Concerns

However, at a roundtable discussion held in Accra yesterday, the CSOs said the placement of the council under the President was not in accordance with international best practices.

The workshop was organised by the World Bank in collaboration with the EGP and Oxfam, NGOs, to discuss the pros and cons of the government’s fiscal regimes.

The Director of Progressive Economic Consulting, a private entity, Dr John Kwabena Kwakye, said in its current form, the FRAC was prone to compromise by the Presidency.

“The problem we have with the FRAC is the fact that members of the council were appointed by the President, attached to the President and financed by the President.

We do not think this is right because it will compromise their independence.

“Ideally, they are supposed to be a check on the Executive because that is what international best practices say,” he added.

According to the director, in other jurisdictions where members of such fiscal bodies were appointed by the President, there were strong checks and balances and Parliamentary oversight that guaranteed the integrity of the council.

“This is not what our system provides because after the members of the council advise the President, the public deserves to know what is happening but we do not even know whether the advice will be made public,” he said.

Dr Kwakye further stated that the ideal thing to do was for the council to be dissolved and the members appointed through a systematic process.

He added that Parliament and the Public Services Commission (PSC) could be made a part of the recruitment body of the members of the council through competitive bidding process.

Restructuring

For his part, the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Analysis, Dr Joseph L.S. Abbey, said the FRAC needed to be restructured in a manner that would make it accountable to the public.

“For CSOs, it is a kind of disappointment because the current FRAC that has come out is not worth what we were praying for because the council ought to be politically independent to serve the interest of the society,” he stressed.

The director observed that even though the calibre of persons appointed to the council had sound moral values and integrity, the environment within which they operated could compromise their work.

The World Bank Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone; Henry Kerali, also called for steps to be taken to make the FRAC independent.

He said an independent fiscal council would help to give credibility to the government’s financial statements and policies.